5 Lessons I Learned About Online Entrepreneurship from a Six-Figure Car Salesman

November 6, 2013

1:00 pm

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to seek the newest trends, the newest marketing methods, the newest social networks… In our minds, newer equals better.  And a lot of times, newer is better.  But, sometimes the best way to move forward is to look backwards.

As you continue reading, we’re going to examine marketing techniques from one specific type of old-fashioned entrepreneur that’s still alive and well today – the car salesman.

“Wait a minute, car salesmen aren’t entrepreneurs… What’s this got to do with me?!”

Car salesmen are paid almost exclusively on commission, which means they determine their income. The difference between a salesman making $40,000/year and $140,000/year is individual effort and smart marketing.

So, we’re going to examine five classic marketing principles taken from one of the most prolific car salesmen of the past 50 years, Joe Verde. We’ll learn how each principle applies in today’s online world, and how you can start implementing them today.

1. Everyone is a Prospect, but…

A previous buyer is worth a hundred prospects.

The most prolific car salesmen make sure that everyone knows they sell cars. Neighbors? Check. Relatives? Check. Friends? Check. The clerk at the grocery store? Check.

Everyone is a prospect; you never know who might be in the market for what you’re selling. So, cast a wide net and snare as many potential customers as possible.

But! The best car salesmen focus their most aggressive marketing on previous customers. Why? Because someone who’s bought from you before is more likely to buy from you again. And they’re more likely to refer their friends and family to buy from you, too.

2. Test Drives are Gold

If you sell a product or service, especially a high-end product or service, then this point is very important.

Literally 99 percent of prospects MUST test drive a car before they’ll buy it. It’s not just because people want to try it before they buy it; that’s too simple…

People are so much more likely to buy a car they’ve test driven because when they’re behind the wheel, they visualize owning the car. They get in the driver’s seat, they’re comfortable, they like the way it feels, and then they start imagining what the car would look like in their driveway. They imagine having kids in the backseat, or driving on a long road trip.

In other words, test drives don’t just demonstrate the mechanics of the car, they make the prospect imagine owning it. Make sure you understand the difference between the two if you want to fully leverage this old-fashioned marketing tactic.

3. There is No Ceiling

Car salesmen are never capped on their commissions. Selling more cars only ever leads to more bonuses and higher commissions. That’s why the best salesmen always find a way to get better.

How? By identifying weaknesses and converting them into strengths.

Don’t ever believe that your business has a ceiling. You can always make it more profitable, more efficient, or more automated.

Here’s an exercise to get you started:

  1. Make a list of at least 20 skills you use regularly. For example, as an online entrepreneur and blogger, I use skills like creative writing, digital marketing, copywriting, social networking, time management, customer retention, email marketing, product delivery, and communication very regularly.
  2. Score your proficiency in each skill on a scale of 1 to 10, with a score of 10 indicating perfect mastery of that skill (hint: you shouldn’t have any 10s).

This exercise gives you a snapshot of your skills and your expertise – from there, simply pick one skill from your list and dedicate 2-3 weeks of consistent effort to improving it. Then, pick another skill and improve that one, working your way through the entire list until you start back at the beginning.

4. Your Peers Will Make or Break You

In Joe Verde’s book, How to Earn Over $100,000 Selling Cars, he recounts his first few years as a car salesman. He sold eight cars per month on average, and felt pretty good about himself because he was the best salesman at his dealership. No one told him that eight cars per month is the industry average.

When he finally moved to a different dealership, the best salesman there sold 20 to 25 cars a month. Guess what? With some hard work, in-depth research and good role models, he started hitting 18 and 20 cars a month within 180 days, then just kept getting better from there.

Success models success. If you want to be above average, surround yourself with above average people. It really is that simple.

5. Get Inside the Mind of Your Audience

The best car salesmen know which cars to show and how to show them based purely on the prospect’s demographic. They know which cars to show single guys, how to interact with families, how to approach first-time buyers, and what an elderly couple wants from a car.

They also keep tabs on all the other dealerships in town and how they’re pricing their cars. So, they know when they need to pitch benefits and when they need to pitch budget-friendliness.

The more you know about your audience, the easier it will be to keep their attention. How do they spend their time? What websites do they frequent? What do they care about? What problems keep them up at night?

Tools like Quantcast and Facebook Advertising allow you to accurately home in on a specific demographic. Genuine feedback and usability testing is easier to obtain than ever thanks to tools like SurveyMonkey and FeedbackArmy. There’s no excuse for not knowing your target audience inside and out.

These are just a few classic marketing tactics taken from the world of selling cars, but there are plenty of other professions to draw from. Do you have any past sales experiences that could be applied to online entrepreneurship? What else can fellow entrepreneurs learn from the marketing masterminds of the 20th century? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments below:

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My name is Will, and I'm a young entrepreneur and marketer living in Tampa, FL. You can learn more about me from the StartupBros About Page

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